TORONTO – This is a different kind of accomplishment for Scott Niedermayer.
As a player, he won everything, from youth provincial titles to four Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals. On Monday he’ll be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame with his plaque reading: “The epitome of a champion.”
“When you’re competing, you’re actually in control of what’s going on,” Niedermayer said. “This is sort of a phone call and I hadn’t played hockey in three years and they give you this great honour. It feels different. It sort of sums it up, I guess, the work that you’ve done and the things you’ve accomplished as a player.”
Niedermayer is in good company. The class of 2013 is the first since 2009 in which every member with NHL connections has his name on the Stanley Cup. Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan each won it three times as players, while Fred Shero won it twice as a coach. Geraldine Heaney won an Olympic gold medal and seven world championship titles with Canada.
“If you’re going into the Hall of Fame, you’re a winner, obviously, and that’s why you’re going in,” said Heaney, who is the third woman to be inducted after Cammi Granato and Angela James. “It’s such a great group of guys to be going in with. Those are the guys I watched on TV and was like, ‘Oh, wow,’ and never thought that one day I’d be sitting beside them getting in to the Hockey Hall of Fame.”
Three defencemen, a power winger and an innovative coach are going into the Hall of Fame, but more than anything this group has winning in common. In addition to the Cups, each of the players won gold internationally—Niedermayer, Shanahan and Heaney for Canada and Chelios for the United States.
“Each one of these guys has performed at a good enough level that they could represent their country overseas among the best,” selection committee chairman Pat Quinn said. “This particular group is probably special. … The Stanley Cup is still the key one for the selection committee, but now you do consider these other awards and championships.”
Last year’s class had only one player who won the Cup in Joe Sakic, who did it twice as a captain of the Colorado Avalanche. Adam Oates, Pavel Bure and Mats Sundin put up Hall-worth numbers but never played on a team that won a championship in the NHL.
The success of this group overlapped often. Chelios and Shanahan won one Cup together with the 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings, and Niedermayer and Shanahan were on Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“I always said the individual awards were a reflection on your team and your teammates,” Chelios said. “There’s so many people that played significant roles in me getting here. I still don’t look at this as an individual award, especially the way things went for me.”
Chelios played 1,651 games—the most of any defenceman or American in NHL history—in parts of 26 seasons. It could’ve been more if not for the lockout that shortened the 1996 season and wiped out 2004-05.
Shanahan, now the NHL’s vice president in charge of player safety, is the only player to score over 600 goals and record over 2,000 penalty minutes. He credited his brothers, who were six, eight and 11 years older than him, for making it to the NHL.
“The rules were you couldn’t cry and you just had to sort of go along and sometimes fight your way to get into the game,” Shanahan said. “They certainly gave me the right tools and upbringing.”
Shero, who died in 1990 and will be represented Monday by son and Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero, had a .612 career winning percentage as a coach, most notably with the Philadelphia Flyers’ Broad Street Bullies teams of the 1970s.
Heaney, considered the women’s hockey’s version of Bobby Orr, represented Canada almost a dozen times at major tournaments and walked away with less than gold only once.
Niedermayer was one of the premier defencemen in the 1990s and 2000s, but his winning ways set him apart. He’s the only player to win a Memorial Cup, Stanley Cup, world junior gold medal, world championship gold medal and Olympic gold medal.
“I guess I’m proud of that,” Niedermayer said. “I think that’s really at the end of the day what it’s all about. I’m sure everyone would love to score more goals and I would, too. Take what you can get, I guess, right?”
Quinn said the selection committee used to take Cups into account more when the NHL had just six teams. Then things changed.
“There was a preponderance of attention paid to (cups). We kind of got away, as the expansion came and more and more players started to play in all the leagues that we started to look at statistics individually a little bit more,” Quinn said. “Now the attention is riding back like a cyclical sort of thing. It’s riding back towards people that have achieved at high levels.”
There isn’t much more these men and woman could have achieved at the highest levels of the sport. Even Ray Shero won a Cup in 2009 as GM of the Penguins.
“It was incredible how many championships these guys have won, and Geraldine with her resume, holy cow,” he said. “I think it’s a great class. To have my dad go in with these guys is just fantastic.”
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated Ray Shero was being inducted instead of his father, Fred Shero.